'Running Euphoria'

(photo by Dan McCauley)

So, I'm conducting an informal "interview" with one of our local cross country/track coaches while running with him at the river. It seems he's had his kids do time trials -- to keep them ready for fictional races already erased by this factual virus.

I'm spinning the idea around in my head when his cell phone rang -- it was one of his runners. In what I can only describe as euphoric, the kid's voice was through the roof. In fact, I could hear him even though we had jogged out of the river and were by the highway.

It seems the boy ran his best time -- on the road. His excitement about the whole thing personally got me through my last mile -- it was uphill anyway. My mind went into overdrive while chugging along - and that's when it hit me.

A race is a race. No, there weren't eight, manicured lanes, nor was there a long, starting line with box numbers etched in the grass. No official gun went off, there were probably ZERO people there to cheer him on.

Some starting lines are ornate, though others are drawn in the sand with your Nike Pegasus, perhaps off the sidewalk between Hammond and Hilderbrand. Official finish lines have a computerized time, a tape to break through, a chute to cool down in. Perhaps this one was designated as between that telephone pole and that scoreboard -- the one right out there. Do you see it?

The coach hung up his phone while continuing his jog. He, too, was excited. "My boy just ran a PR -- and on the road!" he said. Me, I'm a simple man -- don't yet understand all the intricacies of the road versus the grass versus the sidewalk versus…well…the corner of Hammond and Hilderbrand.

But I know what a PR is. And I know what euphoria sounds like. Some things you can't and don't fake. "The clock doesn't lie," one of our coaches always says.

It hit me that maybe the "unofficialness" of his race made it even better. Nobody was there to push him, no coach to read his splits, no mom taking a video of the whole thing. Sure, it helps with spectators, and it's etched in computer-speak when you see your final number on a clock; even more so when you read it on a spreadsheet, see your name on Georgia Milesplit.

I guess when it's in writing it's in your coaches' logbook, on your report card, a part of your infamous "permanent" record you were warned about when you misbehaved as a kid.

Regardless, I could tell by the boy's voice that he's already written his number down; it's already gone past his heart into his soul, it's his measuring stick for his next time trial.  

It's yet another reason to love what we do, if we needed any more. No news will report on it, no sportswriter will write about it, but there's a kid in Atlanta who just ran his best mile. He probably passed thrown away candy bar wrappers, zero people, green fields, maybe a copse of pine trees, and perhaps a dirt road. And he's euphoric about it, and it's his euphoria alone that still makes me smile.